20 Questions for Change Leaders

Thinking of leading a major change in your firm, government agency, academic department, professional society, or other group? Maybe you want to reorganize city hall, add a service line in your firm, develop and implement a new technology, revamp your curriculum, or change your organizational culture from passive-reactive to proactive-innovative. If so, I urge you and co-leaders to ask many and varied questions and then listen carefully and empathetically to the responses. Do this as a reality check at an early stage in the contemplated change project.

As a guide, refer to the 20 questions listed below which are taken from my book (Walesh 2012) and based, in part, on Maxwell (1993) and Russell (2006).  The list is provided to stimulate questions; it is not intended to be all inclusive nor is it intended to be a minimum set of questions to be asked. Based, in part on the list, quiz yourself and many others and thus begin to address what should be changed, why it should be changed, who would be or thinks they would be affected, how might the change occur, and when?

  1. Are you doing this primarily for the organization’s benefit or are you doing this primarily to elevate/bring attention to you?
  2. What is the fundamental problem/opportunity/issue and how will you communicate it so others understand?
  3. Is your commitment sufficient to deal with likely prolonged opposition and/or apathy?
  4. Is the change compatible with the organization’s mission and vision, or do you propose to change the organization's mission and vision?
  5. Who will be positively affected by the change and what are the “benefits” to them?
  6. Who will be negatively affected by the change and what are the “costs” to them?
  7. What are the long-term implications for the organization of not changing, of proceeding in the current mode?
  8. Who will not be impacted, positively or negatively, by the contemplated change but is likely to initially think they are a stakeholder?
  9. What unexpected changes could occur as a result of the contemplated change?
  10. Is the contemplated change visionary enough to excite and engage other leaders or are you aiming too low?
  11. Can you confidently identify likely co-leaders and the reasons they will be supportive?
  12. How will the core team learn more about the change process and how will the group be expanded?
  13. Who will be the principal opposition, at least initially, and why?
  14. What individuals and/or organizations outside of your organization might assist?
  15. Can you point to similar or related changes made elsewhere to use as examples and/or learning experiences?
  16. What messages and media will comprise your contemplated communication program?
  17. What are some of the major milestones and metrics needed to achieve the change?
  18. What are some small successes that will demonstrate commitment and progress?
  19. How will you fund, finance, and/or obtain resources for the change effort?
  20. Could the contemplated change be applied on a trial or pilot basis or, once the change begins, is it irreversible?

Still want to go ahead? Good. Then anticipate great resistance, at least initially, to the change you propose.

Want some assistance in effecting change?  Contact me at stu-walesh@comcast.net or 1-219-464-1704.

Cited Sources

Maxwell, J. C. 1993. Developing the Leader Within You, Nelson Business: Nashville, TN.

Russell, J. 2006. Personal communication, Professor and Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of Wisconsin – Madison, March 13.

Walesh, S. G. 2012. Engineering Your Future: The Professional Practice of Engineering-Third Edition, Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, NJ.

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